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All the riches of creation

Arts industries make money. That's a good reason to value creativity, says John Steers.

According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, creative industries in the UK generate about pound;112.5 billion a year and employ some 1.3 million people. Exports contribute about pound;10.3 billion to the balance of trade, and the industries account for more than 5 per cent of gross domestic product.

The sector's output is growing at three times the rate of the rest of the economy and creating new jobs faster than any other sector. The creative industries are those that "... have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property".

They include advertising, architecture, art and antiques, crafts, design, designer fashion, film and video, interactive leisure software, music, the performing arts, publishing, software and computer services, television and radio. Design alone accounts for pound;27 billion, while art, craft, designer fashion and architecture add a further pound;6 billion.

Art and design educators are adept at developing rationales for defending and promoting the arts in schools, but simply sharpening our traditional arguments never seems to gain proper recognition and resources for the arts in education.

Until now, the economic imperative has not seemed convincing. Sir Christopher Frayling, chair of the Design Council, makes the point that:

" a post-industrial economy - especially in a country like Britain where labour is not cheap, raw materials not plentiful, and where the manufacturing sector is struggling - the work of creative individuals and multidisciplinary teams has become one of the most important engines of wealth creation; in fact, it has increasingly played this role over the past quarter of a century, only for some reason no one has been noticing - at least not at the policy level". (Arcady, the newsletter of the Arts and Humanities Research Board, Winter 2001, But now there is welcome recognition of the importance of the creative industries in some parts of government. Prime Minister Tony Blair has hailed Britain as "the design workshop of the world" and, he says: "Our aim must be to create a nation where the creative talents of all the people are used to build a true enterprise economy for the 21st century - where we compete on brains, not brawn." (All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education, Department for Education and Employment, 1999.) The UK, we are told, has more world-class design businesses competing successfully in global markets than any other nation. The Department of Trade and Industry has particularly identified graphic, product and interior design for exports promotion. The DCMS wants to see creativity at the heart of education "encouraging our children to develop their innate talents". The department is providing pound;40 million, initially in 16 local education authorities, for the Creative Partnership initiative, which is intended to bring together schools, arts and other creative organisations to provide enhanced opportunities for every pupil. (See the Arts Council website: www.artscouncil . org . uk news create.html) But the significant shift described by Sir Christopher appears unrecognised in Department for Education and Skills policies or priorities. In the national curriculum, with its watertight and hierarchical subject boundaries, the arts still seem to occupy a lowly third tier, with often inappropriate assessment procedures and declining resources. Time for some joined-up government.

John Steers is the general secretary of the National Society for Education in Art and Design, The Gatehouse, Corsham Court, Wiltshire SN13 0BZ. Tel: 01249 714825. Web:

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